Why many smart people come across as selfish

You have seen many smart people and after one conversation with them you get a feeling that they seem too selfish. The conversation was all about them and what they are working on and how they are going to do what they are going to do. Sometimes, you felt odd to even continue the conversation. It seemed like you are part of an audience in a speech. Finally, you give up and just wait for the conversation to end.

The question remains – why do so many smart people come across as selfish?

[ Remember that the focus here is on those people that appear to be selfish. There are a bunch of smart people who ARE selfish and we don’t want to deal with them.]

The following image will provide one explanation.

The image represents the what’s in the mindspace right now for a smart person.

1. The green circle represents what the smart person is thinking as the possibilities in the foreseeable future. He or she knows that some things there take time and they are not ready for them yet. These are their dreams.

2. The blue circle is smaller than the green circle and it represents what’s possible NOW. With the right resources, the smart person knows that he or she can get to all the items in this circle. These are their possibilities.

3. The yellow circle is even smaller than the blue circle and this represents all the projects that the smart person is working on. These are their projects.

4. The grey circle represents that actual capacity of the smart person. This circle represents what the smart person can really accomplish with his or her current capacity. As you can see what the person is working on is way beyond the capacity. [Just a side note – It’s not always a bad thing to stretch a bit as that’s part of the growth but blindly doing it will hurt.]

The conversation focus will be what’s on the smart person’s mind and it will navigate between the three outer circles – current projects, current possibilities and future dreams. While there is a conversation happening externally, there is an internal conversation happening inside the mind of the smart person that’s all about the implementation details of the current and future projects – what needs to happen when to move the needle.

Obviously, with so many internal dialogues going through the smart person’s mind, one can feel that the smart person is totally occupied with things related to himself or herself. Stretching this a bit, it can come across as selfish.

What can you do to come out of this?

As people who have done brain and mind research will tell you – you can’t simply remove something from your mind. You can, of course, replace it with something else.

That’s something you can do to escape from this trap – at least here’s one idea to consider.

If you are the smart person in question, you can do this by simply setting an agenda for the conversation and focus completely on what’s on the agenda. The moment you make measurable progress on what’s on the table, you can go back to your projects, possibilities and dreams. Even if you have a strong urge to go back to your projects, possibilities and dreams, resist it and get the focus back on to what’s on the agenda.

If you are on the receiving end, again you set an agenda beforehand and once you make measurable progress on what’s on the table, give an opportunity for the other person to discuss projects, possibilities and dreams.

Remember, you signed up to have a conversation so it’s your responsibility to clear mindspace to pay attention to the conversation and to the person on the other side of the table. Just being conscious and aware of this would solve half the problem.